The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

McDonald’s strikers win in Guadeloupe

Dec 3, 2007

The following article is translated from Combat Ouvrier (Workers Combat), the paper of the revolutionary workers organization of that name active on the island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.

Young workers, averaging 25 years in age, decided to go on strike beginning October 24 at several McDonald’s in Guadeloupe.

Since they were hired, there had been no negotiations as required by law. The strikers had demanded negotiations starting last March. The strikers were confronting a management used to imposing its decisions against workers without consulting them. The bosses don’t care about working conditions and still less about the Labor Code.

So the strikers drew up a list of demands: First, they wanted the day of May 27, the date that slavery was abolished in Guadeloupe, to be a paid holiday. They wanted a 13th month of bonus pay at the end of the year. Finally, they wanted pay for their half hour breaks.

The Labor Code says that night work, with additional pay, begins at 9 PM. McDonald’s management was paying extra only beginning at 11 PM. The strikers demanded a 10% premium for night work and a premium of 25% and 4% of paid comp time for certain time slots. Finally, they demanded a 60 euro ($87) raise a month for all workers and complete respect for the union contract.

McDonald’s opened nine restaurants in Guadeloupe, with two more about to open. Despite this, the bosses say they don’t have money. McDonald’s is multinational, operating in 121 countries. In 2006, its sales were 21.6 billion euros and its profits were 14 billion euros. The dazzling profits of these fast food restaurants are due to the exploitation of young workers and the unemployed. Such workers are the part of the population most vulnerable in a period of economic crisis and growing unemployment. The demands of the strikers could easily be paid from the profits that the bosses are going to realize in Guadeloupe. But these wealthy exploiters refused any negotiations and didn’t hesitate to use intimidation to break the strike. They paid security guards to frighten the strikers and filed a legal complaint about the strike.

Nonetheless, after a week of strike, McDonald’s was forced to give in on October 31. The strikers won almost all their demands.